The debt restrict invoice would pace up the completion of the West Virginia gasoline pipeline
Lengths of pipe wait to be laid underground along the Mountain Valley Pipeline under construction near Elliston, Virginia, September 29, 2019.
Charles Mostoller | Reuters
A bipartisan debt-limit bill introduced over the weekend by President Joe Biden and House Republicans would speed up approval of all permits for a natural gas pipeline in West Virginia and restrict environmental assessments under one of the country’s landmark environmental laws.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline, promoted by Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., would transport natural gas 303 miles from West Virginia to the Southeast and a portion of it would traverse the Jefferson National Forest. Construction of the $6.6 billion pipeline is nearing completion, although plans have been delayed by several years due to legal setbacks.
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Climate and civil rights activists, as well as some state Democrats, have spoken out strongly against the pipeline. Scientists have repeatedly warned that the country must halt approval of new fossil fuel projects and accelerate the clean energy transition to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
While the Biden administration has pushed through an aggressive climate agenda, the president has also taken steps to boost fossil fuel production and work with Manchin and Republicans, who have argued that the president’s climate agenda threatens U.S. energy security.
Critics of the Mountain Valley Pipeline say it will pass through mostly rural, low-income Indigenous communities and will undermine the country’s efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions and pollution, which disproportionately harms communities committed to environmental justice.
“The dirty debt ceiling deal is essentially an assault on our climate and our working families. It’s a climate bomb … and a health hazard to any community that comes its way,” said Jean Su, program director for energy justice at the Center for Biological Diversity. said during a call on Tuesday. “It’s incredibly important that Congress vote on a clean debt ceiling.”
Proponents say the pipeline is vital to strengthening the US’s domestic energy security and that the plan is nearing completion and set to become a reality.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington on May 28, 2023 on his agreement with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (RCA) to raise the United States’ debt ceiling.
Julia Nikhinson | Reuters
The debt limit bill will speed up federal approvals for the pipeline and limit judicial review. Nevertheless, the project could be stopped or blocked by lawsuits.
US energy company Equitrans Midstream Corporation announced earlier this month that it expects to complete the pipeline by the end of the year, but added, “Significant risks and uncertainties remain, including with regard to current and likely litigation.”
“President Biden has protected his historic climate legislation, blocked House Republicans from reclaiming record funding for environmental justice projects, and struck a deal to bring hundreds of clean energy projects online faster while protecting the full scope of environmental assessments,” Abdullah said Hasan, a white House Speaker said.
“We believe this is a bipartisan compromise that Congressional Democrats can be proud of and that will accelerate our clean energy goals and climate agenda,” Hasan said.
The agreement would also streamline the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a landmark environmental regulation, to limit its requirements on some projects.
The agreement would task “a single lead agency” with developing environmental assessments to speed up the process and reduce the time it takes the federal government to analyze the environmental impact of a proposed plan.
Environmental groups argued that the NEPA provision would further limit the public’s ability to contribute to fossil fuel projects, hurting overburdened communities. In a letter Tuesday from 175 groups, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and members of Congress were urged to vote on a clean debt ceiling bill.
Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents oil and gas companies, said in a statement that reforming the NEPA analysis is “extremely important to put the country back on the energy dominance path.”
“This is an important first step in accelerating the approval of America’s energy infrastructure, reducing costs for taxpayers and alleviating high energy prices for consumers,” Sgamma said of the debt ceiling agreement.
Congress is scheduled to vote on the law on Wednesday. Passing the bill will require both Republican and Democrat support. The deal must pass the Senate before the June 5 deadline set by the Treasury Department.